I’m from the Black Hills of South Dakota originally, and therefore have had the opportunity to visit many of the area attractions, both summer and winter attractions. When Mike and I visited family over New Year’s, we were able to participate in a few fun winter activities.
My four-year old nephew tried ice skating for the first time this winter, and loved it. So when we were home, he thought that his hero, Uncle Mike, should go skating with him, even though Uncle Mike had never ice skated before. They went skating in Rapid City’s Main Street Square. This area is so much fun in the warmer weather, and I’m glad that they found a use for the area in the colder months as well. Definitely a great place to skate, but it is outdoors, so bear that in mind when the wind chill really dips.
In addition to the outdoor skating at Main Street Square, there is also an indoor ice skating rink in Rapid City, Roosevelt Park Ice Arena. I had skated here a few times before, but had the pleasure of going to my nephew’s first ice skating lesson this trip. So cute watching kids just learning to skate, as well those improving their skills.
At both places, you can rent skates or bring your own. So whether you’re an amateur or a pro, a hockey player or figure skater, you can participate.
I’m not much of a skier, as I just never had too much practice at it while growing up. I went skiing few times, and felt comfortable on about the smallest couple of hills, but pretty much terrified on anything bigger. I’ve never tried snowboarding, but would love to take a lesson sometime and try it out. I’ll never be an Olympic or X Games skier or snowboarder, but it’s fun to go out and give it a try every now and then.
There are two places to ski and snowboard in the Black Hills, Terry Peak and Mystic Deer Mountain. I’ve been to both, and can’t say that I had a preference. For those who are more frequent skiers or boarders, I’m sure that there are differences that help people decide which place they prefer, but for those who are beginners or only hit the slopes occasionally, I think you’ll probably enjoy either option.
Mystic Deer Mountain also has a tubing park, which we were really excited to try out. We did out research online and planned to attend the session beginning at 2pm (there are three two-hour sessions throughout the day). We arrived at 1:15, thinking that we’d have plenty of time to get out snow gear on, get our passes, and get in line for the tubing lift. However, when we arrived, the line was wrapped clear around the lodge. We waited in line, and waited in line, and waited in line. A worker came and announced that the tube lift was down, and if we wanted to still get passes, they’d be half price since we may have to walk up the hill for about the first half hour of our session. We decided to stay in line, although many did not. By the time our session was scheduled to begin, we still had not reached the beginning of the line (after 45 minutes), and the tubing lift was up and running again. 20 minutes later, we were still not at the front of the line, and the line for the tubing lift was a mile long. We figured out that those who were in the earlier session were allowed to stay, since the tuber broke in their session. We ended up leaving, as we would have gotten to make one pass at best before the session ended. Ultimately the whole thing was terribly disorganized and extremely frustrating. I would give it another shot on another day, because the videos from the tubing run look like so much fun! But this was definitely not a great first impression, and ultimately ended up being a complete waste of time and gas money, and very disappointing to our group.
The other main winter activity in which to participate in the Black Hills is snowmobiling (or snow machining, as some call it). Many people own their own snow mobiles, which they bring in on trailers, but there are places where you can also rent snowmobiles. The Black Hills have lots of trails for snowmobiles, so this is a great way to see the winter scenery, whether you’re in Spearfish Canyon, near Lead and Deadwood, or most any other area of the Hills.
So much fun! But beware the jumps! I remember one time when I went out with a bunch of extended family, and hopped on with an aunt when we were all in a meadow resting and messing around. We didn’t notice a jump that had been built in the meadow and ended up going over it at a rather high rate of speed. I hit my chin on her helmet, which was quite painful, but fortunately did not result in any major or lasting injury.
The other major way to spend the cold winter months in the Black Hills is eating at all of the wonderful restaurants that the Hills have to offer. See my post on Black Hills Restaurants for my favorite eateries in the Hills.